A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that THE GREAT GATSBY is at once a romantic and cynical novel about the wealth and habits of a group of New Yorkers during the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald's writing is unassailably magnificent, as he paints a grim portrait of shallow characters who maneuver themselves into complex situations. This classic American novel is required reading for a lot of high school students, and it can definitely be appreciated and understood on some levels by teenagers. However, Fitzgerald's use of language and symbolism is best appreciated by mature readers able to analyze literature and think critically. Parents also need to know that some characters express racial and religious prejudice.
What's the story?
Nick Carraway spends a summer living in a cheap rental house surrounded by lavish mansions on Long Island in the 1920s. Among his neighbors are his beautiful cousin Daisy, her loutish husband Tom, and her former lover, Jay Gatsby, whose history and epic parties are fodder for gossip. Nick becomes caught up in the machinery of more than one romantic triangle as the summer begins to fade and Gatsby's orchestra stops playing.
Is it any good?
THE GREAT GATSBY is a magnificent novel on every level. Fitzgerald writes about the Jazz Age in language that beautifully evokes music. He writes about a hot day in a way that almost makes you sweat. His characters are well-drawn, and the plot is engaging and fast-paced. Though this novel is possibly best appreciated by college-level readers, advanced high school students will find a lot to enjoy and discuss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Gatsby's five-year quest to regain Daisy's heart. Is his dream realistic? What is Fitzgerald saying about trying to recapture the past?
What kind of person is Nick? Do you feel he is a well-formed character? Why was he so devoted to Gatsby at the end of the book?
What is Gatsby really like? How is he different from the widely held ideas about him in the book?
Why do you think this book is considered a classic?
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